Updated: Jun 10
Angela Knight was just 25 when she opened the Evergreen and Outrageous florist on Church St.
20 years on she’s just launched Evergreen Plants and Ronnie’s Garden Centre (named after her five-year-old son) next door.
As a youngster growing up in Stoke Newington, Angela’s plan had been to work in hospitality and catering. She went to work at The Hilton but, instead of being drawn to the kitchens, she gravitated towards the floristry department in the basement.
“That was where the real people were – you didn’t have to mind how you spoke! The smell down there with all the flowers was wonderful. If you’d told me 25 years ago I’d be running a florist, I wouldn’t have believed you,” she said.
Angela went on to work on a stall selling bunches of flowers and she worked in various flower shops in Stoke Newington before taking on a job at Hudsons Fruit & Veg. Just three months after she joined, the owner asked her if she’d buy the business and she leapt at the chance and renamed it Evergreen and Outrageous.
She added: “It was very scary – my dad helped me out with a loan. Taking on another lease for the plant shop and garden centre 20 years later feels like a big move but it’s exciting.
“The pandemic was a very difficult time – we made the difficult decision for our families and ourselves to close the shop the day after Mother’s Day. We gave away what we could and had to throw away a lot. That’s when we started to dry flowers to reduce waste.
“During the pandemic everyone was getting into gardening too – they weren’t going to work and were at home. More and more people were asking for plants and gardening stuff and that has continued. It’s why we decided to open Ronnie’s.
“Ronnie loves the garden centre – he helps with the watering and puts stones in the bottom of the pots for me. Mostly he sits out there after school with an ice cream. He loves gardening – actually he loves making a mess!”
Most of the business comes from passing trade and word of mouth. Though the team regularly update their Instagram page, they’ve made a conscious decision not to have a website. But they’re happy to take phone orders and to deliver.
She explained: “Spending the day checking emails and updating a website isn’t how we want to work. We want people to come in and touch and smell the flowers or to call up with an order and trust us to put together a beautiful bouquet.”
They regularly provide flowers for funerals, weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. Angela’s team includes Mark Collingwood, who worked for years at John’s Garden Centre until its closure five years ago. He has a good knowledge of plants and is overseeing Ronnie’s.
Ronnie’s, which is accessed through the plant shop, stocks a good range of plants, many grown in the UK as well as small tools and compost. Angela added: “We try to keep the prices as competitive as possible – we’re cheaper than B&Q on a lot of things!”
Asked about the best aspects of running a business in Stoke Newington, Angela replied: “I love how diverse it is and the community spirit. Running a business isn’t always fun – it’s hard work but I Iove my job!”